This stunning image is of the Andromeda Galaxy captured over the dark night sky in Portugal.
Astrophotographer Miguel Claro took this image on July 27 from Monsaraz in the Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve located near Alentejo, Portugal.
The Andromeda galaxy is the Milky Way's closest galactic neighbor and is the most distant object in the sky that you can see with your unaided eye. It is about 2.5 million light-years from Earth. But to see it, observers need extremely clear night sky conditions well away from the light pollution of city lights.
The spiral Andromeda galaxy contains a bulge of matter in the center surrounded by a disk of gas, dust, and stars that is about 260,000 light-years across, more than 2.5 times as long as the Milky Way. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, or about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers). Together, the Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies.
Claro used a Canon 60Da; ISO 2000, Exp: 45s. at f/2.8 with a Canon telephoto lens series L at 200mm + Travel mount Vixen Polarie. Multiple exposures are made to collect enough light for an image that would otherwise not be evident to the eye.
To see more amazing night sky photos submitted by Space.com readers, visit our astrophotography archive.
Editor's Note: If you have an amazing night sky photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org.